The clienttold Ms. Carlton-Hanciles that contrary to what he has heard on television, a staff had demanded Le5,000 to convey a letter to the person he had lodged a complaint against with the Alternative Dispute Resolution service. ‘I have heard you – Ms. Carlton-Hanciles – on television say that your services are free but I have been asked to pay to have a letter delivered,’ the client said. ‘Also, there been delays in mediating my complaint.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles consequently ordered the suspension of the staff for two weeks without salary pending an investigation into the matter. In a hastily convened staff meeting, Ms. Carlton-Hanciles warned staff against conducting themselves in a manner that undermines the enviable reputation the scheme has carved for itself.
‘We have to send a very clear message to all staff around the country regarding our zero tolerance to impropriety,’ she said. ‘Our services are for the poor and vulnerable, we cannot be seen to be fleecing them.’
She noted that the scheme has invested hugely in carving a reputation through the quality of its services and the integrity of its staff. She stressed that the Board will not allow anyone to undermine these values.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles intimated staff that she had received a complaint that morning from a civil society activist from Waterloo against the staff for receiving money from a female client who is also from Waterloo. The woman has lodged a complaint with the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution service relating to a dispute with her in-laws over the property of her late husband.
She reiterated that staff must not demand any money from clients before, during and after they have accessed the scheme. ‘We must not ask for money from any client to do the work of the Board even when there is no money to cover our operations,’ she stressed. ‘Our clients are the poor and vulnerable in society. They come to us because they cannot afford to pay for legal services. It is therefore unacceptable to ask them for money regardless of the amount.’